CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The city moved one step closer with a promise to develop the former Eastland Mall site.
The plan was initially for city staff to present their recommendation of the proposals submitted for the site by two remaining developers.
Instead, because of Arc Ventures’ withdrawal of its “entertainment complex” proposal this week, Studio Charlotte became the city’s remaining choice.
Pat Mumford, head of the newly created “Neighborhood and Business Services,” aimed at bolstering public-private partnerships, called the film studio proposal “dynamic” and “compelling.” He said, however, the city needs more time to discuss the details of the project.
Bert Hesse, CEO of Studio Charlotte Development then demanded clarification, or a memorandum of understanding that the city would “exclusively” work with the group. He explained to the economic development council that he had spent two years and $1 million out-of-pocket to “court” the City of Charlotte. The city purchased the land for $13 million one year ago this month.
"I need to know specifically, are we going to get engaged with the potential to get married, or you want six months of holding hands? If it is six months of holding hands, I'm not interested. Our investors are not interested. Others are saying come here. We want to marry you," said Hesse.
Council members seem to agree. They want to reach a deal before the end of the year. There were concerns that the forward momentum would be disrupted when the decision is presented to newly elected members of the city council after an election.
The primary concern, however, revolved around the industry’s future, which Mumford said was heavily driven by “market forces.”
“It’s critical right now. We have a concept, and while it’s a bold concept for redevelopment of Eastland Mall, we don’t understand fully the viability of it, the financial implications, the revenue streams. How much equity needs to be put into that, so this is the normal process,” said Mumford.
Hesse says his team is primarily interested in owning the property at the best price.
“We are a for-profit organization, so we are not looking for a subsidy. You cannot start a project like this having a $15 to $30 million real estate hole,” he said.
Questions from the committee were centered around the future of the state’s film tax credit, set to expire next year.
Hesse says it would be a “deal-breaker” if the credits are not extended. He is confident in the state’s role in growing the area’s film industry, saying Secretary of Commerce Sharon Allred Decker assured her support.
He says his group will lobby legislators to keep the film incentives, when session reconvenes next year.
“We’re not going to stand around until May and then once it is resolved, start. So we are going under the assumption it will be resolved,” said Hesse. I can guarantee if North Carolina was doing $3 billion of economic activity (like Georgia last year), there would not be a discussion at all in Raleigh in messing around with the tax credits,” he said.
Studio Charlotte hopes to break ground in East Charlotte by spring.